Camel Yamaha Team racers Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards began their preparations for the Grand Prix of Japan in ideal fashion today, lapping at the top end of the time sheets throughout both free practice sessions and ending the day with the first and fourth fastest laps overall. Both riders were able to work on their race setting, adapting the machine configuration from the fast and flowing demands of Phillip Island to the stop-start nature of Motegi, before fitting a softer compound rear tyre in a trial run ahead of tomorrow's crucial qualifying practice.
Rossi was on the pace in both instances, running second fastest in the morning free practice and stepping up the tempo with a string of fast and consistent laps in the afternoon. His best time on a race tyre of 1'48.044 was just a fraction outside lap record pace and is a positive reflection of his potential in Sunday's race. Edwards, meanwhile, was delighted to follow up his positive progress in Australia with another impressive practice showing. The Texan topped the timing screens for lengthy spells in the afternoon as he also lapped in the low 1'48s before settling for the fourth fastest time overall as other riders also experimented with a qualifying tyre.
Valentino Rossi (1st - 1'46.981; 44 laps);
"I am very happy with today; we've made a really good start. The track has a good grip and also Michelin have made great progress since this race last year, especially with the front tyre. They have a new front tyre here which gives me much better grip when braking and so I was able to ride the bike at the maximum straight away today, which meant that I had great fun! My pace is okay, although there are many riders with a similar rhythm so I think it's going to be a hard battle on Sunday! My best time today was done with the qualifying tyre and once again my bike worked perfectly in this situation, so this is good news for tomorrow. Colin was fast too today, as he was last weekend, which shows what good work we've done on our M1 over the last few races. This race is very important for the championship so it's nice to start off on the right foot with this good result. Now we wait to see if we can continue in this way tomorrow."
Colin Edwards (4th - 1'47.581; 41 laps);
"We found something in Phillip Island which seems to have made all the difference; we pulled the bike out this morning and it felt good straight away. We've basically just softened up the setting and it's since felt like a completely different bike. Obviously Motegi is a very different track to Phillip Island but what we used today was pretty much the same bike with virtually the same setting - just a few modifications that we thought would help us here. The crew have done a great job and we've still got another day to work on improving the setting ahead of the race. We used a qualifying tyre today, which we don't usually do on a Friday, and I was really pleased with the lap time. Now we have to keep going, make sure we don't take a single step backwards and head into Sunday's race with confidence of a top result."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"For a start we are very happy to see Colin on top, more or less throughout the whole session today, so we have to keep going with him - improving his feeling with the bike and continuing to give him a good package to work with. Valentino has also made a good start and it is always an advantage when both riders feel comfortable from the first moment because they can push hard and give you lots of valuable data to work from. It means that we have a good setting now on both bikes so even if it rains tomorrow, as they say it might, we can be confident for Sunday. As far as using the qualifying tyre in free practice is concerned, we had actually already started to do this before Malaysia, to provide some information for the qualifying session on Saturday afternoon. However, I don't think there is any doubt that it is in the back of teams' minds now to set a good lap time, just in case there is a similar situation with the weather to the one we had at Sepang."
Nicky Hayden, 50 laps, 240'05 Km. "I struggled a lot at this track last year and I've come out today and almost picked up where I left off unfortunately. It wasn't really that great a day. My rhythm isn't very good and my pace, consistently, is not as fast as I'd like, so we've got a lot of work to do tonight because this is such an important race. I've got a lot of fans rooting for me here and I went to visit the local US Air Force base on Wednesday and a lot of those guys are coming out to support me. So I definitely want to get things turned around for tomorrow and pick up my speed a lot. I really trust in the guys in my team so we'll be working hard to improve things."
Dani Pedrosa, 50 laps, 240'05 Km. "Today we just wanted to get into the rhythm of this track. It was important to concentrate on testing race tyres today because the weather forecast is not looking so nice which means we must use the dry track time as usefully as possible. It's my first time at Motegi on a MotoGP bike and there are some differences to the 250cc - mainly on the straights because they feel much shorter and everything arrives much quicker. Plus you arrive at the hard braking zones faster. My leg feels quite a lot better but I still have some pain and I must work to keep the flexibility. I like this track so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Marco Melandri (3°, 1'47"449): "I'm very satisfied of this first day of
testing. Despite the track of Motegi presents different characteristics,
we started here with the same setting we had last Sunday in Australia.
The feeling with the bike was good and I think that we have found a good
set up in the final part of the session. In the afternoon I tested a
qualifying tyre because this has been so far my weak point. I scored the
3rd time. Honda is helping me to improve the performance of the bike and
the team who is doing a great job."
Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team, 7th fastest, 1m 47.731s;
"I'm very happy with what we've done today and with my race pace. I think we've been the best because I've done a lot of fast laps on race tyres. This afternoon I tried two new Bridgestone rears. The first I used for only a few laps, but I did a lot of laps on the second. My rhythm was very fast with that tyre, there's no doubt I'm the only one who has done 1m 47.7s with race tyres, so my seventh place doesn't reflect my real potential. I don't understand why everyone is in such a hurry to use qualifying tyres! I hope the weather stays fine because I know we can improve our settings some more. I want to say a big thank you to my team. We have such a good relationship - they quickly understand what I say and understand what I need to go faster. We started today with two different set-ups, this afternoon mixed the positive aspects of each. The bike is good, the tyres are good and I'm ready to really use them!"
Sete Gibernau, Ducati Marlboro Team, 13th fastest, 1m 48.313s;
"This is a track where I've never felt too confident, so today I just tried to stay out on race tyres to learn and to see what kind of direction we need to go in. Both sessions went okay, I feel like I'm starting to understand what I've got to do to go fast here, I just needed laps and it seemed like a waste of time to try a qualifier, even though it seems like that's what everyone does these days. What I need to do for this track is adapt my braking, I think I am using the bike quite well but I think my braking is a little too long, so I need to brake for a shorter time. Braking is very important here. We tried different set-ups in both my bikes today and now we are trying to use half of one set-up and half the other for tomorrow. I think that should be pretty good, we'll se what happens..."
"This afternoon we went through a lot of settings and tried a lot of stuff. We tried many things to look for a good race set-up but basically it was one of those sessions where everything we tried didn't help us go quick, but gave us important information. This meant we could never get into a really good rhythm, but we know we can do the lap times as this morning's position showed. The Suzuki and the Bridgestone tyres are working excellently around here on this track. The position this afternoon is not really a true one, but in the dry we are ready and I think we can definitely have a good race here."
"This is my first time at Motegi and it is a really good racetrack - I'm certainly enjoying it. There is a lot of grip here from the Bridgestone tyres and from this morning to this afternoon I made quite a big step. The biggest thing today has been learning the circuit, we made a few changes and tried some tyres but the main thing was finding my lines around here. I learnt a lot today and we have now got enough information to hopefully make the bike and me better tomorrow."
Toni Elias (6°, 1'47"646): "I'm very happy because today the bike was
well balanced and I could ride in the way i like. This morning we worked
on chassis and suspensions and we found a good base. We still need to
improve my feeling with full tank because I'm still struggling a lot in
the first laps because I don't have enough traction."
Shinya Nakano: 2nd - 1'47.315;
"This morning we had some problems with braking stability, which made it very difficult to lap consistently. Between sessions we made some changes to the balance of the bike, which was a big improvement, and I was able to find a good rhythm very quickly this afternoon. Having said that, I think it's still possible to improve things further, as I could still feel the rear hopping about when hard on the brakes this afternoon - and you're hard on the brakes quite a lot at Motegi. Having the rear wheel trying to overtake the front on the brakes may look good on television, but it's not so good for a fast lap time. We know what we need to do to improve this, so I'm confident that we can go even faster tomorrow."
Randy de Puniet: 9th - 1'47.982;
"Overall, I'm happy with the progress we've made today. This is my first time at Motegi with the MotoGP bike, so I faced quite a steep learning curve this morning, but I think we're almost there now. I tested a couple of different rear tyres from Bridgestone, and one definitely seems to offer an advantage here, but I still need to do more work on the set-up of the bike. At the moment I'm just over a second off pole position, but as we get the bike dialled in tomorrow, I think I should be able to close this gap significantly in qualifying."
Naoki Matsudo: 16th - 1'48.722;
"This is the first time I've ridden the latest specification engine, so we knew we would have to spend some time this morning working on set-up. At first I wasn't too comfortable with the engine braking, and the bike had a tendency to wheelie out of the turns, but now the set-up is much better. This is my one and only MotoGP race appearance this season, so this morning I was a little bit nervous to start with. But, once I'd settled into the practice session, and we'd made improvements to the set-up, I really enjoyed myself, and I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow."
Alex Hofmann #66 (19th - 1'49.761): "I'm enthusiast and confident after the good performance we made in Phillip Island. The Team is going on working very good, following my instructions and putting me in the best conditions to be able to push at the maximum. Unfortunately, today we tested some race tires and the best we found is a soft one that wouldn't have enough duration to end the race in good conditions. Tomorrow, let's hope that DUNLOP will bring us more tires that will be more effective for this unexpected meteorological conditions".
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (21st - 1'51.138): "This afternoon, the sensations improved from this morning. We worked with the tires we had at our disposal but as we found different temperatures than we expected we couldn't make it any better today, we already are at the limit. Tomorrow, we will test more tires and I hope to make a good session of qualifying practice. I'm very determined in this final part of the season and in this GP, I want to obtain a good result!".
Makoto Tamada (12° - 1'48.160");
"This morning we started using a new front tyre and had to make some setting modifications before finding the solution ensuring me the right handling level. Infact this afternoon the problem was completely solved and we focused on the choice of the rear tyre for Sunday. I'm already able to turn with a good pace with the best solution of today and tomorrow, I hope to obtain a further improvement."
- 1. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'46.981
- 2. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1'47.315
- 3. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'47.449
- 4. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'47.581
- 5. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'47.610
- 6. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'47.646
- 7. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'47.731
- 8. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'47.915
- 9. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'47.982
- 10. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 1'48.002
- 11. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1'48.059
- 12. Makato Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1'48.160
- 13. Sete Gibernau, Ducati (ESP) 1'48.313
- 14. Kousuke Akiyoshi, Suzuki (JPN) 1'48.317
- 15. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'48.389
- 18. James Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1'49.683
- 20. Carlos Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1'49.889